The Importance of Having a Relationship With Your Child's Pediatrician
Sep 25, 2020
Back-to-school time is here. A time when many children and adolescents visit a pediatrician’s office for annual checkups, sports physicals and other health care needs. While the timing of these visits can be important, seeing a pediatric primary care provider (PCP) - a physician or nurse practitioner who knows your child best - is just as crucial to your child’s health.
Building a relationship with your child’s entire care team, from the pediatric provider, nursing staff and the friendly faces that greet you when you arrive, will make your child’s experience more pleasant as well. Your child’s PCP should be where you start for questions about your child’s health. Their job is to keep your child as healthy as possible, so your kids can reach their full potential! This is especially true now as we navigate through COVID-19 and the rapid changes we are all experiencing in our schools and community.
Does It Really Matter If My Child Sees the Same Pediatrician for Their Visits?
Research shows that children who see the same pediatrician at visits have better health in the long run. Children grow and develop rapidly and getting to know your child and family can help a PCP make the best recommendations and suggest individualized care. Having continuity with one pediatrician has been shown to increase successful screenings at checkups and decrease how often the child has to go to the emergency department for illnesses. Make sure you and your child know whom their primary care provider is!
My Child Has a Chronic Illness. Is It Important to See the Same Pediatrician?
It is especially important to see the same pediatrician if your child has a chronic condition, such as asthma, ADHD, high blood pressure or diabetes. Research shows that patients who see the same pediatrician for these types of problems have better control of the condition than patients who see different pediatricians at their visits.
Another plus for parents - you don’t have to tell your child’s story to each new face you see, making appointments quicker for your family. Your child’s PCP can help you navigate through a sometimes complex health system to ensure your child gets the exact care they need and can often limit the need to refer to other specialists.
If My Child Is Sick, What Should I Do? Shouldn’t I Just Take Them to the Emergency Room?
Except in a true emergency, you should always call your child’s PCP first. Your child’s PCP knows your child best and often has an easier time telling what symptoms should be concerning and those that are not. The majority of concerns and illnesses can be handled at your child’s pediatrician’s office, often in much less time and for lesser cost than a visit to an urgent care or emergency department.
Isn’t a Checkup Just for Shots?
While your child may get shots at some checkups, there is so much more to a checkup than a few pokes! Checkups are when your child’s PCP evaluates growth and development, does a full physical exam, discusses healthy lifestyle choices and provides guidance on how to keep your child safe and healthy every day.
Your child’s PCP will also screen for a variety of diseases or conditions. The stronger the relationship you have with your child’s PCP, the better they can help recommend the absolute best care for your child. And your child may enjoy the visit more too as they learn to trust their pediatrician, which is a building block of a successful relationship.
Dane A. Snyder, MD, is the section chief in the Division of Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. In addition to his administrative duties, he provides direct patient care at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Hilltop Primary Care Center.
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